Thursday, January 21

Dr Yii: Give special consideration for S’wak to overcome 10km travel restriction

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Dr Kelvin Yii

KUCHING: The Ministry of Health is urged to give special consideration or exempt Sarawak from a newly-announced regulation prohibiting people from seeking treatment at medical facilities that are located more than 10km from their homes amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii said the regulation, which was announced by Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba, not only adds unnecessary bureaucracy for patients to get the needed medical attention but it also causes much inconvenience especially for those in the rural areas.

“I understand the reasoning behind such regulations especially during a outbreak such as this, but I urge the Minister to take into consideration the local demographics of Sarawak and access of healthcare for rural folks. A huge chunk of the population in Sarawak may need to travel more than 10km for access to a public health facility, especially hospitals.

“A district clinic may not provide the necessary medical attention of even supplies to these patients making it a necessity for them to travel further to the hospitals which are normally in the city,” he said in a statement today.

The Sun yesterday reported the government had limited the distance a person can travel to seek healthcare or medical services to within 10km of their home, as the country tightens control in the second phase of the Movement Control Order (MCO).

Quoting a federal gazette on the Road Transport (Prohibition of Use of Road) (Federal Roads) (No.2) Order 2020, The Sun said the same rule also applies to those who are buying food and other essential items

The gazette, which was uploaded on the Attorney-General’s Chambers website yesterday, was signed by Dr Adham and it stipulates that this movement condition applies to any person who moves from one place to another within any infected local area or from one infected local area to another infected area.

It also stated that when travelling, a person shall not be accompanied by another, unless it is reasonably necessary, while those who are out to perform any official duty, including for essential services, shall carry with them authorisation letter from their employers.

Malaysians who need to leave the house for any other special and particular reason are also required to obtain prior written permission of the police.

Any person who contravenes any provision shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding RM1,000 or to imprisonment not more than six months or to both.

Dr Yii, in explaining why Sarawak should be exempted from this regulation, said patients do not just make ‘casual trips’ to the hospitals due to concerns of catching the virus in a hospital environment.

“A huge majority if not all such trips are done out of necessity, especially for important follow-ups or treatment such as for cancer patients or even cardiac patients. In Sarawak, the main treatment centre for both are in Kuching and people in the northern regions of Sarawak may need to fly all the way down south for such specialised treatment as well.

“Even residents in Kuching itself, for the Heart Centre which is in the district of Kota Samarahan, would require patients to travel more than 10km to reach it. Such regulations may also affect follow ups and even medication refilling for patients with NCDs (non communicable diseases) or other chronic diseases.

“Pregnant mothers, especially in the rural areas seeking pre-natal follow-ups will also be affected, including babies due for scheduled vaccination,” he said.

“I believe proper documentation of hospital/clinic appointments or even a proper medicine prescription is sufficient to be shown at each roadblock for such special consideration to be given to the patients,” he said.